Speaker of the Month, April 2014

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I’m really enjoying picking a speaker of the month. It forces me to sit through a lot more sessions at the events I attend. I had been getting rather slack about attending sessions. It’s easy to get caught up in networking so much that you’re not taking advantage of the learning opportunities. This month we’re on to the East Coast to pick a speaker from the Boston SQL Saturday event. The talk was called, “What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a DBA.” The speaker of the month is Mike Walsh (b|t).

Mike’s session was just a general discussion about the job of being a DBA. He didn’t get into a lot of technical detail. Instead it was like a conversation with your friends talking about personality traits, work/life balance, restore plans, all good stuff. I especially enjoyed the emphasis he placed on practicing our skills. It’s not enough to know how to do a point in time restore, you need to actually run through it a few times so that when the CEO is standing in your cube, you get it right. I also enjoyed the concept Mike put out that DBAs are advocates for the data. He suggests that a DBA should think that “developers want to mangle the data, vendors want to steal it and managers want to lose it.” I think that’s probably unnecessarily harsh, but it gets the point across. I enjoyed when Mike put little faux SQL statements on the board for a topic. It communicated the point while still being fun. Many of his slides were bare, almost Spartan, but they worked well with the general discussion format that he took.

In fact, I enjoyed the spare slides so much, that when he introduced some pictures, it felt kind of jarring and I thought it took away from the approach he had been building on pretty well. Also, maybe a few extra slides would help the situation. Sometimes Mike would get on a topic and stay there for a while, but his talk would stray a little to far afield from the topic listed on the screen. Having a few more slides might help there. Also, some of the topics tended to meander a tad. While I really did enjoy the conversational style, I think Mike would only benefit from a little tighter focus on the subjects at hand.

It was a session well worth attending. The people in there seemed to enjoy it as well. I’ve no idea where else Mike is speaking. I don’t see anything on Lanyrd or on his blog. Keep an eye out for him and check out the session, especially if you’re just getting started as a DBA.


  • Thanks Grant!

    Love the approach you took here. some good ideas on improvements, too. You actually caught me – this presentation is actually two melded together. Perhaps it would be better to expand the conversation style with the spartan slides into it’s own talk and keep it that way.

    Thanks for participating in the audience as well. I’ve been so busy lately I actually missed that you were doing this series, I would have been nicer to you in the audience 😉

    Was AWESOME seeing you. Been far too long,friend. And thanks again for the insights here. Will go into the next sessions I do. Not much on the schedule right now – have some big and exciting family changes underway right now. Once the dust settles there I’ll know when I can speak next.

  • Bobby Dimmick

    I saw this talk last year in Atlanta and really enjoyed it. It’s always amazing to hear where people come from.

    Mike: Per you dev quote above.. I’m a dev/architect and completely agree. We (devs) are taught from early on to code defensively. It’s not a matter of trust, but a matter of legacy.

OK, fine, but what do you think?